Students remove invasive plants from Green Bay nature preserve

The invasive plant garlic mustard growing at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary in Green Bay.

GREEN BAY - Dozens of Green Bay students teamed up to take out an invasive species Friday at Bay Beach Wild Life Sanctuary.

Students spent the day picking and bagging garlic mustard plants.

The winners got a free lunch, but will have to cook one as well.

Forty-six students from John Dewey Academy of Learning got a quick lesson on the invasive garlic mustard.

Six teams from the Green Bay charter school fanned out to cover part of the 900-acre nature preserve.

Lee Stuyvenberg's team picked the most garlic mustard last year.

"We're trying to remove as much of the invasive species as we can," said Lee Stuyvenberg, John Dewey Academy of Learning part-time teacher.

"It can spread across the ground at the rate of 20 feet per year. It produces a chemical in its root system which actually chokes out other vegetation around it," said Ben Nelson, Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary assistant director.

Junior Bret La Plante says he's learning about teamwork too.

"Most of our projects at our school are individual projects. So getting out here to work with other students is a little change, I like it a lot better," said Bret La Plante, 11th grade student.

Last year, students collected almost 2,000 pounds of garlic mustard. Most of it just got thrown away. But this year, they're paying it forward, with a program called, "From Pest to Pesto."

"We are planning on taking all of our garlic mustard that we collect today and upcycling it, into a pest to pesto luncheon at the NEW Community Homeless Shelter on Tuesday," said Lindsay Ferry, John Dewey Academy of Learning advisor.

Lindsay Ferry says pizza, pasta, and salad will be on the menu.

"The idea behind it was instead of taking the garlic mustard and just throwing it away, that we
would make something better with it," said Ferry.

As the bags piled up, teachers kept track of the progress. Students we talked to say the work was worth the effort.

"That's what I like about this year, is we're not only helping out the park here, we're helping out somebody else too. And putting the garlic mustard to good use," said La Plante.

In all, students collected just under 4,000 pounds of garlic mustard. That's more than double last year.

The winning team bagged more than 1,100 pounds. They will get a free lunch courtesy of school staff.